DeMint Threatens to Hold Up Housing Bill

Posted July 23, 2008 at 11:40am

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) wants one last change to a government bailout of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac or he said he will delay passage of the bill until Saturday.

DeMint said Wednesday that he wants to be able to propose an amendment that would bar the embattled mortgage companies from lobbying Congress or he will force the Senate to use up all the procedural time under the rules before it can go to a final vote. Democratic aides said that process would take until Saturday.

“They could at least include some legislation that restricted the massive lobbying that Fannie and Freddie have used to hush people up for years,” said DeMint, suggesting that both companies used their lobbying power to avoid more stringent government oversight.

DeMint previously used Senate rules to delay the chamber’s initial passage of the housing measure that is now being used to carry the government’s attempt to shore up Fannie and Freddie. The Treasury Department asked Congress last week to add provisions that are aimed at providing a finanacial backstop for the two.

Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), indicated that DeMint’s request would likely be rejected.

“Sen. DeMint has a very simple decision to make. He can either vote for a bipartisan, comprehensive housing bill or choose to delay sending this bill to the president and send thousands of more families to foreclosure. Those are his alternatives,” Manley said.

DeMint’s ploy likely would only succeed in delaying passage of the measure because the underlying bill, which was designed to address the collapse of the housing market, has the support of more than 80 Senators.

Even if DeMint were successful in offering his proposal, Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) remains undecided about whether he will force a delay on the housing measure. A Bunning spokesman said the Senator, who has compared the government bailout to socialism, was reviewing the House proposal before making a decision.